“The Boys of Summer”: A Review

The Boys of Summer cover (the version reviewed here)

I suppose that somewhere along the line almost all baseball fans have run across Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer. It’s sold a gazillion copies, is on list after list of great baseball books, and has gone through a number of printings. So, in the wake of another failure of the Dodgers, this time the version in Los Angeles, not the one in Brooklyn, to win a World Series, it’s time to take a look at the book.

To be up front, this is not the original version of the book that I’m reviewing. Just before the turn of the 21st Century, Kahn updated the book with a couple of chapters that let the reader know what had happened to the players profiled in the original 1970s book and then added a final chapter detailing Pee Wee Reese’s last days. That’s the book I’m looking at, not the original.

Kahn begins his book with a long nostalgic look at growing up in Brooklyn, getting a newspaper job, then being assigned to cover the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952 and 1953, two years they went to the World Series and failed to win (exactly like 2017 and 2018). He subsequently turns his attention to what happened to several members of the team after they retired. He interviewed four Hall of Famers: Roy Campanella, Reese, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and a number of other players like Carl Erskine (who is the only one still living) and Preacher Roe, Joe Black and Billy Cox.  Their lives were a mix of joy and sorrow, or success and failure and Kahn looks at all of them with compassion and little judgement.

The book is well written and successfully gives a glimpse of life in the Borough of Brooklyn at mid-20th Century. It is nostalgic, almost maudlin, in its look back. It is very well written and that is much of its charm. Kahn sets a mood and delivers well on that mood.

It is sometimes called “the greatest baseball book ever.” I don’t think it is, but it is well worth the read. Copies are available at various places on-line. I found my copy at Barnes and Noble.



4 Responses to ““The Boys of Summer”: A Review”

  1. hanspostcard Says:

    I read this when I was in the 8th grade not long after it came out and was mighty impressed by it. In the nearly 50 years since I have re-read it a few times and how do you say it- not as impressed as I originally was. I think it is a good book but not the iconic book that many consider it to be. Worth reading. Kahn I think is still living I wonder why he never wrote an update?

    • verdun2 Says:

      As far as I can tell, he only added the 2 chapters at the end of the volume I reviewed. I don’t know if there is a further update.

      • hanspostcard Says:

        I have a couple copies- will have to look for the update. The book did make a big impression on my as a teenager- how these gods of baseball- were in the end just people like anyone else and had more than their share of tragedies in their lives.

  2. wkkortas Says:

    I would concur–fine book, but historically overrated.

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